Mountain Skink

Mountain skink
Copyright:
Alex Dudley
Mountain skink

Mountain skinks (Niveoscincus orocryptus), like all Tasmanian alpine species of skink, give birth to live young. They usually live amongst low subalpine vegetation and will climb onto low bushes and tree trunks to bask.

Description

This long-limbed species usually has a strong black vertebral stripe on a brown background, and a white midlateral stripe along either side of the body. Dark dorsal flecking on the back tends to align lengthwise. Mountain skinks can be distinguished from Tasmanian Tree skinks by the markings on the back, which do not contain the whitish flecks usually present on the Tasmanian Tree skink. Mountain skinks can be very similar to Southern Snow skinks but can usually be distinguished by the presence of a vertebral stripe and a white midlateral stripe on the Mountain Skink.


On a number of mountain ranges in southern Tasmania Mountain skinks and Southern Snow skinks may interbreed and distinguishing the two can be very difficult. (Photograph of a Hartz Mountain specimen.) It is best to identify such alpine skinks by their locality. The frontoparietals are fused to form a single shield. Midbody scales in 28-32 parallel rows, scales on the back as long as wide.

Ecology

The ecology of the Mountain skink has not been studied in any depth. Although this species is found in rocky areas, it tends to bask and forage for invertebrates amongst low vegetation. In some areas this species is found alongside the Southern Snow skink, which tends to utilise the rock surfaces far more than the Mountain Skink. In the Hartz Mountains area, a population of snow skinks occurs which appears intermediate between the Mountain Skink and the Southern Snow skink. In the Hartz Mountain population the skinks tend to be more closely associated with dense vegetation than rocks, although both habitats are utilised.

Breeding

Mountain skinks give birth to 3-4 young.

Distribution

Restricted to high altitudes in the south and west, but may occur down to sea level in the South-west and western Tasmania. The species was originally described from Mount Eliza, on the Mount Anne Trail.

Status

Secure.

Threats

Global warming could threaten many alpine species.

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